'The majority of nonprofits' in RHD's incubator are led by founders of color - Generocity Philly

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Dec. 19, 2016 12:55 pm

‘The majority of nonprofits’ in RHD’s incubator are led by founders of color

The idea that the people who are closest to a problem are closest to a solution is put into practice at New Beginnings, says Program Manager Tommie Suggs.

New Beginnings Program Manager Tommie Suggs.

(Photo by Tony Abraham)

There’s debate inside Resources for Human Development (RHD) about when exactly the human services nonprofit’s incubator New Beginnings was launched.

It’s a fact that the Please Touch Museum, one of the first programs in the incubator, opened in 1976, but that was just one program.

“Some say it was the 1970s, some say the 1980s,” said Tommie Suggs, a program manager with New Beginnings. Either way, the incubator has pumped out over 50 nonprofits since it started, including the Philadelphia Public School Notebook.

“It was the vision of RHD to provide support for organizations that wanted to help out the community, organizations that don’t know where to go,” said Suggs, a resident of West Oak Lane entering his third year with New Beginnings. “We steer them in the right direction.”

Where those organizations come from matter, too. Right now, there are 24 nonprofits operating with fiscal sponsorship under New Beginnings’ 501(c)3. According to Suggs, “the majority of nonprofits” in the incubator were founded and are led by people of color.

“From my perspective, a lot of the people who start nonprofits are closer to the issues,” he said. The idea that the people who are closest to a problem are closest to a solution is a recurring theme in impact work, and it’s put into practice at New Beginnings.

Suggs finds joy in helping the founders realize mission. It’s “amazing,” he said, to sit in a room with founders in the incubator and listen to their purpose, help guide them through their struggles and watch their programs grow.

Almost overnight, said Suggs, has been the growth of Blackboard Labs/Jr. Music Executive, the recently merged nonprofits founded by Jim Wells and Aisha Winfield, respectively. Both use hip hop as a tool for youth education and development and began the merging process with help from New Beginnings last year.

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There’s youth education nonprofit Philadelphia College Prep Roundtable, female reentry nonprofit I’m FREE, athletics aid nonprofit Access Sports, LGBTQ news organization QUEERtimes — there’s no shortage of diverse mission in the incubator.

Suggs sees it as a community.

“One of our visions for New Beginnings is that it changes from this idea of being a department of RHD to being a community of startup nonprofits,” he said. “When you think of a community, you think of the word ‘commune.’ When you commune, there’s fellowship, transparency — there are problems, but you also have people in that community to provide support.”

And “kick you in the pants” when you need it — and it’s needed. Part of Suggs’ job is to prevent nonprofits from duplicating efforts of other organizations in the city. It takes a community to raise a child, he said, and New Beginnings is no different.

But how many nonprofits can New Beginnings take under its wing? Suggs said at one point, there were over 30 organizations in the program. There’s still room.

“We have not reached our cap yet,” he said. “As long as we have the manpower, we’re willing to help out as many nonprofits as we can.”

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